[EDITORIALS]Labor strike short-sighted

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[EDITORIALS]Labor strike short-sighted

Hyundai Motor Co.’s labor union has gone on partial strike from yesterday. Although the workers only held a strike action for two hours yesterday, the union plans to increase the strike’s intensity until next Friday. The union is demanding a wage increase, a 30 percent share of the company’s net profit and the elimination of late night shifts. Other demands include stipulating that it participate in reviewing business decisions such as the construction of new plants or assigning the production of new models to overseas plants.
A Hyundai Motor labor strike has become an annual event so it holds no surprise. Since the union was established in 1987, strikes from five to 36 days have occurred every year except 1994. From past experience, however, there is little to worry about in terms of possible losses as Hyundai Motor has always recovered its losses through overtime once the strike ended. The problem is that the labor union’s perspective and thoughts are molded in the wrong shape. One could suspect from the union’s demand for joint review of corporate decisions that it is anxious about “global management.”
The union unconsciously acknowledged it is falling behind in competitiveness against overseas workers. Although the union is arguing that its demand for joint review is to prevent the loss of domestic industries, the actual intention is to protect the union’s vested interests.
That does not mean that Hyundai Motor should retreat from global management as, if they do, it is the fastest way for their business to fold. Numerous car producers have deteriorated or been swallowed by other companies as they avoided global competition after accepting labor union demands. In contrast, Toyota, whose labor union increased production while refraining from demanding wage increases or striking, has expanded rapidly in the global market.
The Hyundai Motor labor union now stands at a turning point. The average member’s age is close to 40 and there is no future for those who comfort in glorifying memories of past strikes and group egoism.
It is urgent that the union change its view that its competition is not management but workers overseas. The only weapon in overcoming the travail of reorganization the global automobile industry is undergoing is not protest and strike but competitiveness. It is time for the Hyundai Motor labor union to devise a long-term survival plan.
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